Teammates Gather for Workouts as NHL Season Finally Nears
TROY, Mich. — Todd Bertuzzi hunched over, trying to catch his breath, before slowly standing up on his skates to spit and take a swig of water.
The Detroit Red Wings forward then leaned his head against a padded post during a short break toward the end of a relatively rigorous workout.
For NHL players, it’s time to get ready for work.
Bertuzzi was among several players who pushed it a little harder on the ice Monday because it looks as if the NHL is going to have a season after all.
“It’s just nice that it’s come to an ending and now we can focus on getting ready,” Bertuzzi said.
The framework of a new collective bargaining agreement was reached on the 113th day of the lockout Sunday morning. More than 24 hours later, players were working out together at rinks across North America with games on the horizon.
Informal skates led by players have suddenly assumed greater urgency while lawyers work on putting a complicated deal on paper.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Monday that the regular season likely will last 48 games, the same length of the shortened 1994-95 season after another 100-plus day lockout.
The league has circulated a memo to teams telling them to be ready to play by Jan. 19, the date the shortened season is expected to start.
“It was a different feeling walking into the rink this morning,” Minnesota Wild coach Yeo said. “Just even to see them and have a chance to talk to them, and then get a chance to watch these guys go out on the ice, I think they look great and it’s very exciting.”
NHL players are here, there and everywhere.
Some — including Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin — went overseas during the lockout. Ovechkin, who played for his hometown Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League, was welcomed back to Washington by the Capitals, who posted a picture of him on their Twitter account arriving at a local airport.
Players — teammates and opponents — who stayed in North America have been getting together for months to skate, conduct on-ice drills and work out on their own to stay in relatively good shape.
“We have a brotherhood that has only gotten stronger through all of this,” Los Angeles Kings forward Kevin Westgarth said in a telephone interview from Raleigh, N.C., where he skated informally with some Carolina Hurricanes.
Penguins star Sidney Crosby and nearly a dozen teammates worked out at a suburban Pittsburgh ice rink. Crosby, sporting a smile during a 90-minute workout, was wearing Penguins practice gear instead of the NHLPA jersey he sported during the lockout.
The Phoenix Coyotes were wearing their jerseys as well as they welcomed some Red Wings, including goaltender Jimmy Howard and defenseman Niklas Kronwall, and Oilers, including forward Shawn Horcoff, for a spirited workout at the Ice Den in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“Guys had an extra jump,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said.
The locked-out Coyotes had a minicamp of sorts a couple months ago with opponents such as Crosby and Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, but their latest workout looked and felt a little different.
“There’s a different energy in the air now that we’ve come to an agreement,” Phoenix goalie Mike Smith said.
Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell, who skated with former Chicago Blackhawks teammates in the Windy City, said players might have to get used to working out on their own for up to another week before teams can open training camp.
While Campbell has been working out with about 15 players, the Philadelphia Flyers haven’t had as many teammates around to skate together lately.
“It was a long four months,” Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. “Not many guys are around here. You kind of have to keep in shape just in case this happens. This creates a quick turnaround here.”
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